Democrat opposes sending Guantanamo detainees to Leavenworth
A senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday warned against sending detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas, saying it could endanger U.S. relations with Muslim countries.
It was also another thorn in President Barack Obama’s effort to quickly close the controversial U.S. prison in Cuba.
Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, acknowledged the difficulties the Obama administration was having finding a place to move the detainees, but in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates he raised two problems with sending them to Kansas.
In addition to Fort Leavenworth housing a maximum security military prison, the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College is also located at the military installation which is meant to serve as a graduate school of sorts for military officers, including from abroad.
“I have strong indications that, if detainees from Guantanamo were to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, a number of Muslim countries would decline to continue to send their students,” Skelton said in the letter. “This would have a very negative outcome for our military officers, the school, and the health of our relationships with Muslim nations.”
He also raised the issue of housing foreign individuals near American prisoners, saying that U.S. law bars it.
“Plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to Fort Leavenworth would require additional expenses for military construction and enhanced security so as not to run afoul of the law,” Skelton said. “I feel strongly that Fort Leavenworth is not an appropriate option.”
Skelton is the first senior Democrat to raise issues with moving the Guantanamo detainees to Kansas, but follows a news conference last week in which Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback and Republican Representative Jerry Moran blasted suggestions of moving the detainees there.
The Obama administration has said Fort Leavenworth is one of many options under consideration. Another option could be a maximum security prison in Standish, Michigan. There are some 229 detainees still at the controversial prison in Cuba, which was opened in 2002 to house terrorism suspects.
- Photo credit: Pool/